Slide Show: Arizona's Immigration Battles | The Nation

Slide Show: Arizona's Immigration Battles

  • Protesters rally against Arizona's controversial SB 1070 bill in Phoenix, April 2010. (1 of 10)

    Immigrants—perennial scapegoats for fear-mongers on the American right—have been blamed for everything from overpopulation to unemployment and even for rising emission levels. Frighteningly, the finger-pointing seems to be working. In recent years, anti-immigration groups have won significant victories: In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security began building a fence along the US-Mexico border, and this April, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed that state's now-infamous SB 1070 bill, which requires local police to ask suspected undocumented immigrants about their status, into law. The question of how to handle this country's immigration problem has never been more urgent.


    In a special issue of The Nation examining the toxic nature of Arizona's immigration debate and the implications for the country as a whole, Andrew Ross, Greg Grandin, Robin Templeton and Marc Cooper emphasize that if Obama wants to be president for the next six years instead of just the next two, he’s going to have to show that he is "committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform."


    Credit: AP Images

  • J.D. Hayworth at a campaign rally in Phoenix. (2 of 10)

    Former Presidential candidate John McCain's relationship with the frayed right edge of Arizona politics becomes more strained by the day. In "John McCain's Last Stand," Marc Cooper describes how the bad blood between McCain and the Arizona GOP has drawn national media attention to a primary that should have been a cakewalk for the 73-year-old incumbent. Facing far-right challenger and former US Congressman J.D. Hayworth, McCain has made dramatic leaps to the right in an effort to curry favor with the extremists who are skeptical of his alignment with the center-right.


    Thankfully for McCain, Hayworth's battiness and corruption trumps McCain's own "political shapeshifting" in the eyes of Arizona voters. After fronting con-job infomercials, getting involved in shady financial transactions and asserting that gay marriage could lead to bestiality, Hayworth has slipped behind McCain by a likely-insurmountable 15-20 point lead.


    Credit: AP Images

  • A supporter of J.D. Hayworth at a news conference in February. (3 of 10)

    McCain's lead in the primary may be safe, but he's achieved it by alienating his more moderate base. The McCain running in this year's race is far removed from the maverick senator who once co-sponsored a relatively liberal immigration bill with the late Ted Kennedy. Now he's urging accelerated construction of a wall at the border, advocating deportation and appearing in TV ads with an extremist leader of the campaign to defend SB 1070. But McCain's race to the right has done little to win over the state's utlra-conservatives.


    "Indeed, it speaks volumes to the estrangement between McCain on the one hand and his own party and its base on the other that Hayworth could ever, even briefly, be considered little more than marginal amusement," Cooper writes. "In what political universe does a defeated former congressman seriously challenge a long-incumbent senator, a former presidential candidate?"


    Credit: Reuters Pictures

  • People hide from a US border patrol vehicle outside Tijuana, Mexico. (4 of 10)

    Since when is the far-right a champion of environmental consciousness? Since they discovered that the issue could be a platform for their anti-immigration agenda. In a press release accompanying footage of Arizona's Coronado National Forest, the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies asks, "how long will these beautiful lands remain unspoiled if the border is not secured?"


    In "Greenwashing Nativism," Andrew Ross reports on the manipulative language used by anti-immigration conservatives in Arizona to convince the public that immigration is bloating our country's carbon footprint.  "In a state like Arizona, always on the lookout for its next bucket of water, the Malthusian belief that there simply isn't enough to go around is never far from the surface," Ross writes.


    Credit: Reuters Pictures

  • Part of the international border separating San Luis, Arizona, and San Luis, Mexico. (5 of 10)

    As Ross shows, the nativists' greenwashed anti-immigrant claims have shoddy foundations. "In reality," he writes, most of the borderlands' "ecological mayhem is a result of the border enforcement activities (including the fence infrastructure itself) which were exempted from environmental oversight by George Bush."


    The claim that immigrants emit four times as much carbon as documented Americans is also easy to dispute: low-wage immigrants are more likely to live in more energy-efficient inner-city neighborhoods instead of carbon-heavy urban sprawl. "Nor is there any real correlation between population size and destructive use of resources," Ross says.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce in April 2010. (6 of 10)

    In a sign of how dirty the right's anti-immigrant tactics have become, Arizona State Senator and SB 1070 architect Russell Pearce is proposing legislation targeting “anchor babies,” or the children born to undocumented mothers. The bill would allow Arizona to refuse to accept or issue birth certificates to babies born in the US from undocumented immigrants, unless one parent is a citizen. Apparently, these children are “overrunning US hospitals” and “endangering American lives.” According to Texas Republican Representative Ron Paul, "awarding automatic citizenship to children born here minutes after their mothers illegally cross the border" is "a matter of national security."


    The only problem? Citizenship by place of birth is not only a centuries-old tradition in Anglo-American common law and jurisprudence, but also enshrined in the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment's citizenship clause states, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States” with the exception of children of foreign diplomats and the children of invading armies. So as Robin Templeton argues in "Baby Baiting," “the ‘invading army’ rhetoric" of the anti-immigrant movement "is not accidental.”


    Credit: AP Images

  • An immigration raid in Phoenix, April 2010. (7 of 10)

    As Templeton observes, "For all the rhetoric spewed by the right about unfettered border crossing, the laws governing immigration to the United States have only gotten more restrictive in the past 15 years." The intricacies of the current citizenship application process often result in separated families and often lead communities to fear cooperation with authorities. What's more, federal welfare reform passed in 1996 disqualified almost all immigrants, including most legal permanent residents, from receiving any form of public assistance. So the “claim that ‘anchor babies’ are a means of reaping government benefits for undocumented parents can also be easily debunked,” Templeton says.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Protestors calling for immigration reform in front of the White House, June 2010. (8 of 10)

    While Republicans have for years used abortion, race and homophobia to split their opposition, Democrats and progressives have been unable to find a wedge issue to call their own. Instead, they have resorted to promising “more effective” versions of the conservative agenda. Greg Grandin argues that if Obama and the Democratic Party embrace immigrant rights “as passionately as Republicans mobilize around tax cuts, fetuses and war—they may find the issue is the grail they have been looking for.”


    Credit: AP Images

  • Immigrants' rights protestors marching through Phoenix, May 2010. (9 of 10)

    What the Democrats need is a “progressive game changer,” as Grandin puts it: immigration reform that will grant citizenship and voting rights to millions of undocumented Latinos. Why Latinos? It would be political suicide to ignore them considering that ten million Latinos voted in 2008, mostly for Obama.


    Immigration is important to seventy-eight percent of Latino voters and their families, including the growing ranks of Latino Catholics, Protestants and Mormons. Even the Vatican's recently appointed conservative archbishop of Los Angeles, Mexican-born José Gómez, a member of Opus Dei, has stated that in "Catholic teaching, the right to migrate is among the most basic human rights.


    Credit: Reuters Pictures

  • Protesters stand outside the US Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Phoenix, May 2010. (10 of 10)

    If you want to watch Republicans squirm, Grandin says, just put immigration reform on the legislative docket before the November midterm elections. It’s a lose-lose situation for them: if they support it, the Tea Party base gets angry; if they oppose it, they might win big in November, but they won’t be able to hold on to their gains come 2012 without the electorally-important Latinos.


    Recent Latino immigrants have been at the forefront of rescuing this country's decaying social structure, revitalizing the union movement, re-energizing neighborhoods and pumping money into established small businesses. As a group of ten million vulnerable people are denied basic human rights and have their families split apart, immigration reform “is the morally right thing to do.”


    Credit: AP Images

  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size